Serving Our Community

One of the overarching goals of the College Education is to educate, serve and lead in the state of Iowa. That service begins right here in Cedar Falls and Waterloo, where students, faculty and staff are active members of the community. Through various initiatives across the Cedar Valley, UNI and the College of Education are making an impact in the lives of the people around us.

Waterloo students performing hip-hopHip Hop Literacy Summer School

Administrators from the Waterloo Community School District partnered with UNI and the College of Education to establish an eight-week summer school literacy program for Waterloo elementary students that incorporates African American culture, specifically hip-hop.

It first started as a small program at Mount Carmel Baptist Church three years ago. Shuaib Meacham, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, brought the unique concept to UNI after helping to establish a similar program at the University of Delaware.

This past summer, at least 30 students from Waterloo schools participated each week in the inaugural program, which culminated in a trip to Target headquarters in Minneapolis.

Students from the College of Education served as the primary instructors.


UNI-CUE Tutoring Center

The UNI-CUE Tutoring Center serves Black Hawk County Students in grades K-12 and consists of one-one-one tutoring sessions for 1.5 hours each week during the fall and spring semesters. Student volunteers, predominantly from UNI’s College of Education, are paired up with tutees that best fit their schedule and the subject area that the tutee needs help in.

“We have had students that have come into the tutoring program failing classes,” said Megan Holbach, assistant director for the UNI-CUE. “And by the time the tutoring program has finished for the semester, they are passing their class with an ‘A.’”

Holbach also emphasized that the program offers tutors the opportunity to work in a diverse environment, create lesson plans, understand the importance of adapting to the student’s learning style and learn how to communicate with their teacher peers.


Joyce Levingston and a Little Free PantryCedar Valley’s Little Pantries

The Cedar Valley's Little Free Pantries initiative was started to address the challenge of food insecurity in Northeast Iowa, as well as to promote a program of community engagement. The concept is simple: Build a pantry, place it in your community, fill it with food and every-day items and then tell people about it. It is free and easy access of food to solve short-term and immediate food insecurity issues.

"Being aware of the statistics in Black Hawk County and the area schools in the Waterloo community inspired me with the idea of Little Free Pantries," said Joyce Levingston, the Leisure, Youth and Human Services graduate student who started the initiative. "Some schools have 90 percent of their students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.”


Bethany PiotterUNIted Dance Company

Bethany Piotter, a senior elementary special education major, established the UNIted Dance Company (UDC) last year. UDC pairs UNI students with K-12 students within the community who are with or without a disability. The UNI students work together with the children in an effort to spread the love of dance to as many people as possible, in addition to promoting inclusion.

The organization was recognized with the "Most Promising New Student Organization" award at last spring's Student Leadership Awards ceremony. Piotter was also nominated for and received a national award, "United for Acceptance," through the PACER's National Bullying Awareness Center for her work with her dance company.



The educational leadership department has partnered with the School Administrators of Iowa, which is an organization that serves practicing superintendents and principals, to incorporate their “CatchLife” wellness initiative into the principalship program at UNI.

The goal is to help future superintendents and principals learn to take better care of themselves and handle the potential occupational stress and anxiety. Thirty four candidates from the principalship program have agreed to participate in the pilot “CatchLife” program from January through April. Participants must commit to a daily activity goal, working out at least three times for a week for a minimum of 30 minutes, and sleeping for at least seven hours per night.

Undergraduate and graduate students taking courses with Jennifer Waldron, a professor from UNI’s School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services (KAHHS), will serve as coaches for the participants and monitor their progress via the data from fitness watches.


International Justice Mission

The UNI chapter of the International Justice Mission (IJM) was established to raise awareness on campus and in the community about the reality of human trafficking. The group wants to act as a voice on behalf of victims of injustice. Their advocacy work includes raising funds to help IJM’s global efforts to rescue the victims of “modern-day slavery.”

Michelle Powers, the student organization’s president, said that the chapter is working to create platforms for students to be engaged advocates. Just last month, she accompanied 15 students to Cedar Rapids for training on how to educate hotels on the issue of human trafficking.


Kappa Delta Pi

The UNI Psi Chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) International Honor Society in Education has been honored with the Community Service Chapter Program Award from their national organization. The chapter is responsible for at least ten active community service programs that were developed by student members to meet a specific need within the community.

The chapter is an official “Partner in Education” with Orange Elementary School in the Waterloo Community School District. They have partnered with the school for several programs, providing 1:1 tutors for elementary and early childhood classrooms and adopting five needy families at the holidays and twelve families at Thanksgiving. One of their most notable efforts is their after-school Girls and Boys Basketball programs, assisting with extracurricular athletic opportunities for families who cannot afford private lessons or tournament clubs.